The sister of slain 6-year-old Logan Tipton described in court Monday how she woke up to see a man standing over her little brother with a butcher knife in one hand and a butter knife in the other.
Koral Tipton, 13, testified she confronted Ronald Exantus, the Indianapolis dialysis nurse who is on trial for murder. Koral said Exantus came toward her and ran the butter knife up her abdomen to her face.
When Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Keith Eardley showed a butcher knife with a bent blade to Koral, she said, “That is the knife he used to stab Logan.” Police had said at the time that the knives came from the household kitchen.
Koral woke up because of Logan’s screams as the two and other siblings slept in the same bed, Eardley said. Logan was stabbed in the head.
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Jurors also heard a recording of a shaken Koral telling a 911 dispatcher that her father was struggling with the intruder in an upstairs bedroom. “Daddy’s upstairs telling him to stop,” Koral said in the recording.
Exantus, 34, could face the death penalty if he is found guilty of murder in Logan’s death.
The trial was moved from Woodford to Fayette County, where jurors were seated Monday before the prosecution and defense gave their opening remarks.
Exantus, who had no prior criminal or psychiatric history, drove from Indianapolis to Versailles, entered the unlocked Tipton household before dawn, and stabbed the kindergartner on Dec. 7, 2015.
Dean Tipton, the boy’s father, also testified Monday. Tipton, the father of four surviving children, said Logan “was the first one to meet me at the door when I came home from work.”
He said the house was unlocked on Dec. 7 so that his wife, Heather, could get in after working third shift at Amazon. Logan had broken her key in the back door lock, Dean Tipton said.
Tipton said he struggled with Exantus before Versailles police arrived. “I told him I was going to kill him because he was messing with my children,” Tipton said.
The father described how he held Logan, who was struggling to breathe after the attack: “He closed his eyes and that was it. He died in my arms.”
During cross-examination from public defender Josh Miller, Tipton said he had not met Exantus before that pre-dawn fight. “I never seen this man before in my life,” Tipton said.
Putting to rest conspiracy theories that swirled after the arrest of Exantus, Tipton said that the home invasion was not about an old debt, insurance or “a deal gone wrong.”
“This is not your fault, is it?” Miller asked.
“No, it is not,” Dean Tipton said.
The defense does not dispute that Exantus stabbed Logan to death. The defense argues mental illness caused Exantus to attack. The defense will ask that Exantus be found not guilty by reason of insanity.
The prosecution says insanity doesn’t fly as a defense because Exantus voluntarily took some sort of synthetic drug that caused his psychosis.
“The commonwealth is looking for a drug that is not there,” public defender Bridget Hofler told the jury in her opening statement. “Mental illness, not a drug, is why Ron is here and Logan is not.”
On Friday, Special Judge Phil Patton denied a defense motion to exclude a psychiatrist and toxicologist from testifying for the prosecution. Both experts will testify that the behavior of Exantus is consistent with a person who ingested synthetic marijuana, bath salts or some “disassociative drug.”
Hofler counters that a blood sample taken from Exantus detected the presence of only a non-active ingredient of marijuana. She acknowledged in the opening statement that Exantus and his girlfriend would smoke marijuana.
Jury selection began last week, and over the course of four days, the pool of potential jurors was narrowed from more than 180 to 34. The final 14 jurors were selected Monday.
When all the evidence has been presented, two of those 14 will be excused before the remaining 12 begin deliberations.
This will be the first death-penalty case to go to trial in Fayette County since 2015, when Joel David Searcy was tried in the fatal shooting and robbery of an 82-year-old man.
The jury found him guilty of manslaughter, not murder, and with that verdict Searcy could not be sentenced to death.
The last time that a Fayette jury recommended death was in 2010 for Carlos Lamont Ordway, who was found guilty in the slayings of two men in 2007. The Kentucky Supreme Court overturned his conviction. Ordway was retried in 2014 and he was sentenced to life in prison without parole for 25 years.
The Exantus trial will resume at 9 a.m. Tuesday in Fayette Circuit Court.